The City Council held their annual budget workshop last week. This is an important part of the City’s budget process. For three days, the City Council sits, informally, around a table, listening to City management and staff discuss their departments. This is a great way to discuss plans, needs, successes, and disappointments. As you can imagine, there is never enough money to cover all the needs and there is usually disagreements as to the priorities.
This year, the resulting budget reflected the City Council’s request for no tax increase, no new staff, and no reduction in services. The budget included a 15% increase in healthcare costs and, at the City Manager’s request, a 2% increase in salaries. These increases were funded by an increase in property values. Property tax revenue will increase by 7.7%, or $454,000.
The General Fund budget was approved as presented. The main problem area was the City’s capital expenditures, otherwise known as funding of the infrastructure. The City is about $1.5-2 million behind annually in funding these projects. For instance, to keep our roads in good repair, they need $600,000 per year to be spent on them. However, the City is spending less than $250,000 per year.
As you can imagine, the longer annual maintenance is delayed, the more expensive repairs become, putting the pressure on the need to plan and schedule this work. It is much cheaper to be proactive, than reactive.
The City Council should be looking at creative ways to raise funds for these projects. We cannot continue to kick the can down the road because the issues will not simply go away.